Masterclass with Robert Erdmann

22 November 2022,
Institute of Advanced Studies, UWA
Postgraduate Students, Early Career Researchers, Academics, Professional Researchers

This class is now full. Please contact the IAS to be put on a waitlist.


A New View: Web-based Tools for Deep Study of Cultural Heritage Objects

A masterclass with Robert Erdmann, Senior Scientist at the Rijksmuseum, and Full Professor of Conservation Science, Faculties of Science and Humanities, University of Amsterdam.

The combination of ultra high resolution photography, advanced technical imaging, high-performance computing, and ubiquitous internet access has transformed the study of objects of cultural heritage. We have moved from a dearth to a deluge of data, necessitating a new family of tools to process, interpret, and present the gigabytes or terabytes of data arising from a single object.

One of the most desirable features of digital tools for such interpretation and visualization is the ability to make comparisons. Meaningful comparisons include those between and within diverse imaging modalities, physical length scales, different states of an object throughout time, artistic techniques, and artistic materials, among others. Making comparisons should be frictionless, even for enormous datasets, and should be possible remotely and without access to a large computing facility.

The Masterclass will focus on several aspects, including visualization theory, human perceptual psychology, and the AI technologies utilized to create these web-based tools and to refine them through work on large projects centered around Dutch art. Examples are taken from paintings, works on paper, sculptures, with a focus on enormous datasets from works by Hieronymus Bosch (, Rembrandt, De Vries, Van Vianen, Van Gogh, and Vermeer. Additional work on using AI-based natural language processing to search large open-access collections of cultural heritage images will also be presented.

About the Presenter

Prior to earning his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 2006, Robert Erdmann started a science and engineering software company and worked extensively on solidification and multiscale transport modeling at Sandia National Laboratories. Upon graduation, he joined the faculty at the University of Arizona in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Program in Applied Mathematics, where he worked on multiscale material process modeling and image processing for cultural heritage. In 2014 he moved permanently to Amsterdam to focus full-time on combining materials science, computer science, and imaging science to help the world access, preserve, and understand its cultural heritage. He is Senior Scientist at the Rijksmuseum, and is also Full Professor of Conservation Science in the Faculties of Science and of Humanities at the University of Amsterdam.